WANA, Pakistan (Reuters) - Missiles fired from suspected U.S. drone aircraft at an insurgent training camp in Pakistan’s South Waziristan tribal region on the Afghan border killed nine militants Thursday, intelligence officials said.
The United States, alarmed by worsening security in Afghanistan, has been using pilotless drone aircraft to attack Taliban and al Qaeda fighters in northwestern Pakistani enclaves, from where the militants mount attacks into Afghanistan.
At the same time, nuclear-armed Pakistan is struggling to push back a growing Taliban insurgency of its own. Its security forces have been fighting the Islamist militants in the Swat valley, northwest of Islamabad, for more than a month.
Two of the pilotless aircraft were used in Thursday’s strikes in the Taliban and al Qaeda stronghold of South Waziristan, the intelligence officials said.
At least four missiles were fired at the camp near a village west of the region’s main town of Wana, they said.
The Pakistan military has been softening up targets in the area and is expected to expand its Swat offensive against the Taliban into South Waziristan soon.
“Nine militants have been killed in the missile attack on a training camp run by a local militant commander, Malang Wazir,”
said an intelligence official, who asked not to be identified.
Another security official, citing witnesses, earlier said five people had been killed in the strike. The two officials had earlier said the strikes had hit two small, adjacent villages.
They did not know yet if any senior Pakistani or foreign militants were among the dead.
U.S. ally Pakistan objects to the U.S. missile strikes, saying they violate its sovereignty and undermine efforts to deal with militancy because they inflame public anger and bolster support for the militants.
Washington says the missile strikes are carried out under an agreement with Islamabad that allows Pakistani leaders to publicly criticize the attacks. Pakistan denies any such agreement.
In the Swat offensive, 34 insurgents had been killed and another seven captured in the past 24 hours, the Pakistani military said in a statement.
Independent casualty estimates are not available.
The fighting in Swat and other parts of the northwest has displaced about 2.5 million people and aid officials have appealed to donors to step up their help.
Additional reporting by Augustine Anthony in ISLAMABAD; Editing by Paul Tait